If you’re asking, “Can I grow cherry tomatoes in a container – successfully?” then the answer is yes – with a few small qualifications. Here’s what you need to know about growing your cherry tomato plant in a pot/container.
Growing Cherry Tomato Plants – Soil
First off, growing cherry tomato plants really isn’t any different from growing any other kind of tomato plant. They all need direct sunlight (at least 6 hours a day), water and fertilizer (preferably organic). A good soil to use in the container is a combination of compost and organic potting mix. (I like half and half myself).
I’ve tried growing tomato plants in just compost and in just organic potting soil, but I find that the two mixed together have produced the best growth. Mix in some extra perlite or vermiculite for drainage.
Another option is to use compost mixed in with some sphagnum moss and perlite.
Don’t use soil from your yard in the container; it may compact easily in a container, and it’s quite possible there are unfriendly bacteria in it.
What size of a container should you use for your cherry tomatoes? Part of the answer depends on the variety of cherry tomato you plan to grow – determinate or indeterminate. (Learn more about the difference between determinate or indeterminate on the tomato growing terms page.)
In general, determinate varieties are shorter and smaller than indeterminates. Unless you are growing something like Micro-Tom (smallest tomato there is), the minimum size for a container should hold 3 gallons of potting mix/compost. However, if you can manage a 5-gallon container, your tomato plants will thank you by providing more fruit.
Now for the indeterminate cherry tomato plants. While I certainly have grown indeterminate cherry tomatoes in a 5-gallon container, they grow much better in a 10-gallon. (I even have a few 20-gallon pots for the cherry tomato plants that get very large like Blondkopfchen.) So, a 5 gallon container is the minimum, and a 10 gallon will have your plants thanking you. While I haven’t grown SuperSweet 100 in a container (yet!) I think it would work quite well.
Fertilizer for Cherry Tomatoes
The general rule of thumb for container growing is apply half as much fertilizer, twice as often. I like to use liquid fertilizer that I dilute to half-strength, then apply it twice a month.
You need to fertilize more often in containers for two reasons. First, what fertilizer you do use gets washed out from the extra waterings that container plants need. Second, your cherry tomato plant’s roots only have so much room to grow, and sooner or later, they will run out of space. Since they can’t expand further, they need to extract everything they can from a limited area.
Which fertilizer to use? I primarily use organic methods (compost, fish emulsion, kelp meal, Terracycle and Tomatoes Alive!), there are times of extremely rapid growth where I admit to using Miracle-Gro for Tomatoes. While my in-the-ground-garden tomatoes get organic, I find that the container-grown plants do need a little boost at times. Of course, that could be because I am in a hot climate. You’ll have to experiment for yourself.
Watering Your Cherry Tomato Plants
You really do want to put your containers where you have easy access to water. Especially as they grow larger and the weather gets warmer, you will find that you’ll have to water often. During warm and windy times, I have to water my containers daily — and there have been very dry times where I’ve needed to do it twice a day!
Try to keep the soil moist but not wet. The more of an even moisture level of the soil, the less the chance your tomatoes will crack badly should a heavy rain arise.
A mulch will help to keep moisture in the soil longer. I like to use an inch or two of hay, but I realize not everyone has easy access to it. Other mulches can be bark chips, dried grass clippings, chopped leaves and even shredded paper! (Just make sure the paper doesn’t have colored ink on it.) In addition, some people also swear by red plastic for a mulch.
Can I Grow Cherry Tomatoes in a Container?
By now you see the answer is yes, you can successfully grow and harvest cherry tomatoes in a container. With just a little preparation and attention, you’ll find yourself with tasty snacks that are good for you!
If you plan to grow large vining tomato plants, you may want to use tomato cages. What exactly is a tomato cage, though, and how do they work?
What is a Tomato Cage?
A tomato cage is a generic term for a tomato plant support, that supports the plant on at least three sides. A tomato cage can be round, square, rectangular or triangular, although square tends to be the most popular.
Some tomato plants have a vining growth habit, others have loads of fruit, and yet others have huge fruits. And then of course, there are tomato plants that have two or all three of these!
You don’t want tomatoes – plant or fruit – resting on the ground. It’s too easy for insects to find and munch, not to mention plants on the ground are more susceptible to tomato diseases. That means either staking or tomato cages are your best options in most cases.
When to Cage Tomatoes
Many tomato plants can be staked, with one or perhaps two stakes. Then tie the plant’s branches to the stake(s) at various heights so that the plant stays upright.
But there are plants whose growth is too tall or “sprawly”, and they need more support than one or even two stakes. This is where tomato cages can come in handy. (Of course, you can cage any tomato plant you like.)
Determinate tomato plants bear the vast majority of their fruits in a short period of time. These plants can get very top-heavy, and sometimes stakes don’t provide enough safe support for all those ‘maters!
I usually stake most of my tomato plants, but the bigger plants get caged, as I’ve learned through experience. Don’t be like me and have a tomato plant split because the support from the stake just wasn’t enough. Tomato cages give support at multiple points instead of just two or three.
Big Tomato Cages
There’s another tomato cage that I have just ordered in preparation for The Great Tomato Experiment is the tomato tower with nylon trellis. It’s a larger type of “cage”, rising to 6 feet tall – great for the larger tomato varieties. Which I fully expect to have with the experiment!
I prefer the square cages, but I am open to experimentation. 😀 I do like tall tomato cages, though, and they tend to be harder to find.
Now there are plenty of tomatoes that can be staked, like the smaller determinate plants. For these tomatoes, you can use a stake or a tomato pen (like the first photo on this page). You’ll want the pen 30 to 40 inches tall, or a stake 3-1/2 feet tall for these varieties.
Hope this gives you enough information on whether you can stake your tomatoes or if you should have tomato cages for them. Either way, enjoy eating your delicious homegrown tomatoes!
Two books have gotten my attention lately, and have intrigued me. One is about taking a tomato plant to new heights (both literally and figuratively) of production, and the other is growing humongous tomatoes.
Sound interesting? Well, if you grow tomato plants, you surely want good production — lots and lots of delicious fruits, ready when you need them (not to mention plenty to turn in to sauces with still plenty enough to give away).
And you’re likely fascinated with those huge tomatoes, weighing in at several pounds each! Each tomato is a meal in itself for several people; they are simply amazing.
The Great Tomato Experiment
With the tomato-growing weather great in my part of the country right now, I’ve decided to put the two books to the test. I’ll grow three tomato plants of the same variety, from the same seed packet.
- One tomato plant will be the control plant; I’ll grow it just as I normally do.
- One tomato plant will be grown according to the directions for the high tomato productivity.
- The final tomato plant will be grown according to the directions for making those humongous tomatoes.
The tomato variety I’ve chosen for this test is a heirloom tomato named Pineapple. It”s a bicolor, with red and gold stripes, outside and inside. Not only is it pretty to look at, but the fruit is delicious and sweet. Oh, and the tomatoes it produces pretty regularly get to be a pound or more in size. Pineapple is also a bit more disease-resistant than most heirloom tomato varieties, but like most heirlooms is indeterminate.
So, it sounds about the perfect tomato for the test, wouldn’t you say?
Hey, why not join me? Experiment right along with me if you live in the south. If you live farther north, get your seeds, books and supplies now, and run your own experiment as soon as your weather turns mild enough.
First, the Books
OK, here are the two books you’ll need for this Great Tomato Experiment. They are:
- How to Grow World Record Tomatoes: A Guinness Champion Reveals His All-Organic Secrets by Charles Wilber
- Giant Tomatoes by Marvin H. Meisner; M.D
The first book is about growing lots and lots of tomatoes. How many? Charles Wilber managed to grow over 1,000 pounds worth of tomatoes…from just four plants! While I don’t expect to grow that many, you can see what I mean by growing lots of tomatoes! My goal will be to at least double the tomato productivity of the control plant.
The second book is about growing those giant tomatoes that are heavy and huge. Can you imagine a tomato that dwarfs two hands? The tomato variety I’ve selected is already known for growing large tomatoes, but my goal is to have the tomatoes substantially bigger than the largest tomatoes on my control plant.
Next, the Seeds and Supplies
First are the seeds for the heirloom tomato called Pineapple; you’ll need a pack of these seeds for the experiment. (If bicolors aren’t your thing try Kellogg’s Breakfast.)
Next is a tomato trellis, which helps to hold up the tomato plants. I’ve selected the Tomato Tower with Nylon Trellising for both the test plants. For my control plant, I’ll use the staking system I normally use. The tomato tower is 6 feet tall, and is designed to better support the larger tomato plants, not to mention the larger tomatoes!
After that, I’ll be using the soil and fertilizers specified in each of the books for the appropriate plants.
So, below are the items I’ll be using. The two fertilizers you see are for my control plant (i.e., what I normally use). I put in the windowsill greenhouse as well, as it’s what I use for the germination phase for any tomato.
- Terracycle Tomato Fertilizer
- Sea Magic Fish Fertilizer
- Windowsill Greenhouse
- Pineapple Tomato Seeds
- Kellogg’s Breakfast Tomato Seeds
So, come on and join me — let’s have fun growing lots and lots of big, tasty tomatoes! The seeds, supplies I’m using are listed below; put your cursor over an item to get more information and/or buy it.
P.S. Don’t think you can’t follow right along with the experiment because you don’t have a yard in which to grow tomatoes — I’m growing each of my three plants in containers! But if you can (and choose to) grow your tomato plants in the ground, you’ll likely have even bigger yields. Wow!